What exactly is a whole grain?

Whole grains are so much more than fibre and so much better than refined grains when you look at it from a nutrient’s perspective. They offer a “complete package” of health benefits that we strip when we mill and refine the grains.

Every grain grows whole grain. But a grain is only whole grain if it has all three parts intact in their original properties.

The bran = fibre, vitamins and minerals

The endosperm = carbohydrates & vitamins

The germ = protein, vitamins, minerals & antioxidants. 

Milling strips away most of the bran and germ and leaves only the soft, easy-to-digest endosperm. Without the fibrous bran, the grain is easier to chew but the more we process the grain, the more we decrease its nutritional quality. Refining wheat creates fluffy flour, but the process strips away more than half of wheat’s B vitamins, 90 percent of the vitamin E, and virtually all the fibre*.


54-57% of consumers agree that intake of whole grains and fibre is important for their health and wellbeing.*

Bread is by far the most important source of whole grains in consumers’ diets and 64% of consumers claim to choose whole grain bread always or very often.*

What are whole grain foods?

Whole grain foods (including whole grain flour) are defined differently across the EU and there is no legislation regarding labelling of whole grains at the EU level. For instance, in Denmark and Sweden for a food to be characterized as whole grain food, it is required to consist of at least 50% of dry matter from whole grain ingredients. In the Netherlands, all of the flour must be whole grain for bread to be labelled as whole grain. In Germany, whole grain bread must be at least 90% whole grain. In the United Kingdom and the USA whole grain foods must contain at least 51% whole grain ingredients by weight.

The Goodness of Whole Grains

Whole grains taste good

Most wholegrains are chewier than refined grains and some may have a nuttier flavor. Keeping our whole grain bread and fast-food products delicious and tasty over time is a key priority for our innovation and quality teams. They work hard to improve the nutritional profile of our bread and fast food products by increasing the overall amount of whole grains and consequently fibre while slightly reducing the salt content. All while keeping the same great taste!



Wholegrains are nutritious

Whole grains give you all the goodness of the grain in the same proportions as they are naturally grown in the field, bringing a unique combination of nutrients to our whole grain products.

  • The fibre-filled outer bran that supplies B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, and also bioactive compounds, such as plant stanols & sterols and phytoestrogens. 

  • The starchy carbohydrate endosperm that holds carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of some B vitamins and minerals.

  • The nutrient packed germ – the core of the seed that is rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, and some bioactive compounds.

Data source

Whole grain benefits go beyond nutrition

High-fibre foods improve bowel function* and thus help your digestive system. High-fibre foods tend to be less "energy dense," which means that you have fewer calories for the same volume of food. This is due to fact that the calorie value for fibre is only 2 kcal/g whereas digestible carbohydrates and protein contain 4 kcal/g and fat 9 kcal/g.

* If the product contains at least 6 g of wheat, oat, rye or barley fibre per 100 g or 3 g of fibre per 100 kcal.

54-57% of consumers agree that intake of whole grains and fibre is important for their health and wellbeing.*

The key reasons for choosing whole grains are the health & nutrition benefits (57%), but 46% of consumers prefer the taste of whole grain.

Whole grains provide more food than refined grains

Grains and other plant-based foods are less resource-intensive to produce than animal-based foods.

And looking specifically to whole grains, 18.6 kg of wheat equals 60 whole grain bread loaves (680 gram /loaf) but only 42 white bread loaves (similar weight)

This is because the process of milling refined flour strips away the grain’s bran and germ layers, which means that we are utilizing only 75-80% of the grain.

When we make whole grain flour we use 100% of the grain.  

The bran biproduct that is left after the refining process is still rich in many plant compounds and minerals and as such it preserves its nutritional benefits. In many countries it is used solely for animal feed whereas in for example the Nordic countries we also use it for human consumption.

Whole grains are more sustainable

Grains and other plant foods are less resource intensive to produce than animal foods like dairy, eggs and meat. Wholegrains require significantly less water than just about any other food we consume which is a big deal when it comes to climate change resilience and sustainability. A 2021 study  found that it takes only 0.51 litres of water to produce one calorie of grain while the equivalent single calorie of beef requires 10.19 litres.

Thus, it can be argued, that diets emphasizing a shift toward more grain and less meat are not only healthier choices for humans as such, they also release some of the burden on our environmental resources.

Source: The National Association of Wheat Growers; wholegrainscouncil.org

This is why wholegrains are in a significant role also in the planetary diet, which is good for both people and the planet. In the planetary diet, about half of the daily energy should come from plant-based products and wholegrains alone should provide about one-third of the daily energy needs.



Not all breads are created equal

White bread contains refined wheat flour, a processed form of wheat grain. During processing, the most nutritious parts of the wheat grain are sifted away. This includes the bran, which is the outer layer of a grain that contains fibre, B vitamins, minerals, and the germ. The germ is the core of a grain that contains vitamins B, E, phytochemicals, and healthful fats.

Whole-grain bread contains the bran, germ, and endosperm. This means it provides a lot more nutrition than processed white bread.


44-63% of consumers know that eating whole grains has a preventive effect on several noncommunicable diseases.*

Our commitment


33% of grain ingredients in our bread and rye bread products will be whole grain


All our bread and Fast Food products will contain a minimum of 3% fibre (‘source of fibre’) and 30% of our Wheat Bread volume will contain 6% (‘rich in fibre’)


We will reduce the salt content in all our Bread and Fast Food products by 10%


40% of Sweets volume will contain a maximum of 250 calories / portion


Celebrating Whole grain Day

Lantmännen Unibake support the International Whole Grain Day which aims to highlight the positive impact of whole grain on nutrition, health, wellbeing, and sustainability. The climate crisis, Covid-19 pandemic, and war in Ukraine have shed light on growing importance of resilient, sustainable and healthy food systems. For policy makers, it is crucial to tackle the double challenge of providing food security to a growing global population while ensuring a smooth transition to sustainable food systems and healthier diets. Whole grains are the best ally to overcome those challenges: they have minimal environmental impact, are nutritionally dense and weather resistant, and can be stored for long periods.

The International Whole Grain Day celebration, opinion leaders from all around the globe will gather to discuss the importance of whole grains to achieve sustainable, healthy, and resilient food systems worldwide.

“We passionately believe in the power of whole grains and have committed ourselves to increasing the share of whole grains in our products across the markets we operate in.” says Carsten Lyngsø Thomsen, President of Lantmännen Unibake. “As a leading player in the bakery industry we have an obligation to act responsibly. Bread plays a significant role for everyday nutrition of millions of people, and we know that diets high in whole grain and fibre are a significant factor to a healthy life. In addition, whole grains have proven to be a sustainable choice for both people and the planet." 

Read more about the whole grain intiative